As a public service, the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office would like to raise awareness about a recent scam targeting county residents.

Here’s how it works. The scammer calls you and says, “Hello, I’m Deputy Howell with the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office. You recently missed jury duty, and I have a warrant for your arrest.”

You naturally panic, because no one wants to hear that there is a warrant for their arrest.

You take a deep breath and think to ask questions, but the scammers are good. They provide badge numbers — fake, of course, but they sound “official.” They know your address and maybe where you work. They may even know the names of your spouse and children. It’s all publicly available information that they can look up — all the better to scam you.

The scammers then tell you that if you would rather not be arrested, they have the authority to dismiss the arrest warrant, but only if you pay them. The amount is likely to range from several hundred to several thousand dollars. They will instruct you to put the money on gift cards. They may even tell you specifically where to go to purchase the gift cards.

And if you seem hesitant, they will remind you that you are the one who missed jury duty and are about to be arrested. They may even threaten you, saying they will hurt you or your loved ones if you tell anyone about this.

The scammers will arrange a time to call you back. During the interval, you are expected to go out and purchase the gift cards. When they call you back, you will be told to read the numbers to the scammers, at which time they will immediately transfer the money off of each gift card and into their personal bank accounts.

There are many variations of this scam, but no matter what form it takes, it is still a scam. Legitimate law enforcement officers do not call to tell you that they have warrant for your arrest. They do not dismiss arrest warrants. And they do not accept payment in any form, even gift cards.

And more specifically, the Forsyth County Clerk of Courts does not request that the Sheriff’s Office issue arrest warrants when someone misses jury duty. (At most, you will receive a fine.)

So if you get a phone call like the one described above, do not become a victim. Hang up immediately, call the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office non-emergency number, 336-727-2112, and speak with a dispatcher, alerting them to the conversation.

Do not give your money to scammers!

Q: I am retired and live alone, and I am trying to manage on a fixed income, but costs seem to keep going up. Is there anything I can do to feel more in control of my money and expenses?

DN

Answer: You are not the only one in this situation. Learning to live more frugally is a major concern for many — especially seniors. The National Council on Aging reports that more than 25 million adults over the age of 60 are economically insecure. Thinking about budgeting strategies now will give you a long-term advantage as you continue to age. Adjusting just a few things can go a long way toward saving money.

First, get organized and simplify your fiscal life. If you have large amounts of financial paperwork, take some time to go through it and shred any documents that you no longer need. This might seem time consuming and overwhelming at first. If so, ask a family member or some other trusted person to help you. Once done, you will have a clearer view of where you stand financially, along with the information you need to draw up a budget.

After determining exactly what both your financial resources and expenses are, you can begin to look for areas where you can cut spending. Perhaps you can identify a service you no longer need or use and can eliminate. When it comes to your bills, you do not want to miss a payment or, for that matter, make an overpayment, so the next step should be finding the easiest and most efficient way to pay your bills. Online bill paying and setting up automatic payments would be good options to consider.

Next, “hazard proof” your home. Remove unnecessary throw rugs, add light sources in areas that are dimly lit, and install grab bars in the bathroom. The cost of an injury resulting from a fall could potentially lead to tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills. Luckily, there is relatively little cost involved in decluttering and reorganizing your home regularly. You may want to consider getting some paid help around the home. Even though this may seem counterintuitive when your goal is to save money, having help with cleaning and maintenance tasks that have become physically challenging for you may save money in the long run — again by reducing the chances of your having a costly accident.

Here are a few more money-saving tips to consider. Plan your meals before going to the grocery store and do your research to find out if any of the items you need are on sale. Grocery stores tend to tempt us to make impulse buys, so stick to the items on your list and don’t get sidetracked. Adjusting your thermostat may enable you to reduce your utility charges. Simply changing the setting by a single degree can result in big savings on your heating and cooling bills. Contact Duke Energy at 1-800-777-989 or visit duke-energy.com for a free energy audit to see if you have any leaks that are causing cool air or heat to leave your home unnecessarily. Duke Energy will also provide free energy-saving LED lights, a water-saving shower head, and more.

You can find information on where to get help organizing your finances by visiting Senior Services’ online Directory of Services for Older Adults in Forsyth County at seniorservicesinc.org/resources/directory.

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AgeWise is a weekly column compiled by staff of Senior Services Inc., a nonprofit organization in Winston-Salem. If you have a question, email agewise@seniorservicesinc.org or mail to Senior Services, 2895 Shorefair Drive, Winston-Salem, NC 27105.

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